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Turmoil in Greece Over Deep Austerity Measures; Syria Violence; Singer Whitney Houston Dies; Catalyst Foundation Works With VietnameseChildren; Israel Blames Iran For Bombs Targeting Embassy Vehicles; Massive Tropical Cyclone Bears Down On Madagascar

Aired February 13, 2012 - 08:00:00   ET


KRISTIE LU STOUT, HOST: Welcome to NEWS STREAM, where news and technology meet.

I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong.

And we begin in Greece. Protesters took their anger out on the streets of Athens as a key austerity deal is voted in.

The music world remembers Whitney Houston at the Grammy Awards.

Rescuing children from possible trafficking. CNN's "Freedom Project" takes us to a rubbish dump in Vietnam where many children live.

And almost two decades after the Zambian national football team was killed in a plane crash, their successors win African football's highest prize.

We begin in Greece, where turmoil over deep austerity measures is again shaking the country to its core. With the sort of bankruptcy hanging over them, Greek politicians voted to approve another round of highly unpopular budget cuts. In return, they hope to get a $172 billion bailout and avoid default.

The capital, Athens, erupted in anger before and after the vote. Police used tear gas and stun grenades against protesters during these running street battles, and dozens of people were injured in the chaos. A movie theater, a bank and several other buildings across the city were set on fire. Even with the vote secured, Athens still has to find more savings and make more promises in order to get the bailout money.

Let's get the very latest now with our senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance. He is in Athens and joins us now.

Matthew, what is the scene today? What is the aftermath of last night's violence?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kristie, it's much calmer on the streets of the Greek capital at the moment. The rescue workers, rescue teams have been going through the rubble of the burned-out buildings and clearing the way, still putting out some fires we saw earlier. But there is still a great deal of frustration on the streets, obviously. We saw that expressed last night in those quite dramatic scenes of violence, with tens of thousands of people clashing with the security forces, with the riot police, tear gas, stun grenades, petrol bombs being thrown.

A real expression of anger and frustration by Greek people that they are now going to be expected to endure more austerity cuts. Remember, there have already been two years of very swinging (ph) austerity measures in this country. The recession has been here for, I think, five consecutive years. It's led to a huge impact on people's living standards.

The austerity measures, so far, have already plunged a whole category of Greeks into poverty.


CHANCE (voice-over): At this soup kitchen in Athens, the growing ranks of Greece's new poor. Former office workers, shopkeepers, pensioners laid low by their country's economic despair, like Andreas (ph), a retired merchant seaman who says he hasn't received his pension for five months and simply can't afford to feed himself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This food is good food --

CHANCE (on camera): Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- fresh food cooking, and give health to a lot of poor people, including me.

CHANCE (voice-over): But many Greeks were angry at being seen here, all too ashamed to be identified on camera. Seventy-two-year-old Alexander would only speak to us if we hid his face. He told me his family owned two clothes shops in Athens, but lost everything when the economic crisis hit. People no longer buy expensive designer fashions, he says.

Social workers say it's a familiar tale, recession and austerity forcing thousands of once middle-income Greeks into poverty.

(on camera): Around the world, many people see this Greek financial story as a debt problem. People focus on how many billions of euros the country owes to get itself out of debt. But from the point of view of the people on the street, it looks very different.

You're seeing here in this soup kitchen people who, just a year ago, were ordinary European citizens. They shopped at supermarkets, they had apartments, they had jobs. They've seen their standards of living drop off the precipice, and that's the real Greek tragedy that's being played out in reality across this country.

(voice-over): Yet, we also found a strong sense of resilience here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Things are going to change. We're going to make sacrifices, but we're going to survive. We're going to survive. This is guaranteed, because we survived 5,000 years almost, and we're going to survive again. That's all.

CHANCE: It is the grim determination of Greece's new and desperate poor.


CHANCE: They're going to need that sense of determination as well, Kristie, because of these new austerity measures that have now been passed by the country's parliament here behind me. Standards of living are likely to get even lower.

Back to you.

STOUT: It's an incredible story, isn't it? A story of resilience and also anger and resistance to more austerity measures.

Matthew Chance, joining us live from Athens.

Thank you.

And "WORLD BUSINESS TODAY" will have much more on the Greek debt crisis, including a look at what austerity really means.

"WBT," it starts 10:00 p.m. Hong Kong time.

Now, diplomats at the U.N. will discuss a new draft resolution strongly condemning Syrian human rights violations. On Sunday, the Syrian government rejected Arab League calls for a joint peacekeeping force at the U.N., and it comes as opposition groups report 680 deaths in the past week. Most of them were in Homs, the epicenter of the conflict and the apparent target of this artillery fire. Footage has also been posted online of tanks firing on Douma, near Damascus, although CNN cannot verify these images.

And meanwhile, according to the Syrian Arab news agency, President Bashar al-Assad has received a copy of a new constitution which he says will lay the structure for reform. And there are also signs that Russia may be softening its position.

A lot to talk about, so let's bring in Nick Paton Walsh, who joins us live from Beirut.

And Nick, first the bombardment. It continues in Homs. What is the latest from there?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, as we've heard, every day for the last nine days the bombardment shelling continued. From earlier this morning, one activist we spoke to in Homs, though, in the Baba Amr area, one of the area's most heavily hit, Nedis Omar (ph), said to us a more disturbing development he's become aware of.

In the past five days, many Syrian army troops have apparently moved into the district north of Baba Amr known as Insha'at (ph). They've begun arrests there. That's been widely reported. But (INAUDIBLE).

In fact, what they're preparing now is potentially some move south. That's to push Syrian armor and military down into this opposition stronghold of Baba Amr, which has borne the brunt of the onslaught in the past four days. And surely, if that happens, the 400 dead we've seen in the last nine days in Homs alone is bound to (INAUDIBLE).

STOUT: And Ayman al-Zawahiri, he's weighed in on this uprising in Syria. The al Qaeda leader, he's now calling on Muslims all over the world to topple Bashar al-Assad. But really, how much impact will his words have on the crisis?

WALSH: Well, al Qaeda really haven't been a motivating factor, or really a player at all in the Syrian unrest. In fact, for not really much of the Arab Spring at all over the past year. So this will be seen by many as Zawahiri trying to retain some relevance for al Qaeda who, frankly, have slipped off the map here politically in the Middle East.

What this does though, I think, his broad call for support for all Muslims, for what he referred to as the "lions of greater Syria," what it has done in the minds of some observers is raise a question in terms of its timing.

On Friday, we had serious blasts in Aleppo, a government stronghold. In December, we had very damaging explosions in Damascus, killing dozens. And the kind of hallmarks of those operations, those attacks, were, to many analysts, to some U.S. officials in the media, did suggest potentially extremist radicals, maybe even al Qaeda in Iraq. And I think, certainly, Zawahiri's reemergence on the scene here, and trying to perhaps get some kind of clatter (ph) in this, might make those suspicions grown stronger, though right now, let's be clear, al Qaeda have nothing to do with the motivation of this insurgency -- Kristie.

STOUT: And also, on the diplomatic front, Nick, Russia wants now more details on an Arab-U.N. peace plan. The U.N. General Assembly is set to meet to discuss the crisis.

Will there be international action?

WALSH: I think, definitely, there'll be much more international discussion, but international action really remains, as always, a huge question here. I mean, Russia's position is, at times, contradictory.

They're saying they don't want to see external interference in this, but outsiders, they're setting conditions for how the peacekeeping mission might continue. They want to see a cease-fire first, and they're also saying that they will, perhaps, examine this.

But I think, bear in mind, throughout all of this we have just recently heard the Syrians not changing their position, being quite clear they view this Arab League proposal as a "flagrant interference" in their internal affairs. So whilst you have perhaps the key diplomatic nanny for the Syrians, Russia, putting many conditions down that could be fatal roadblocks, we have the Syrians pretty much killing this nation's plan in its early stages -- Kristie.

STOUT: Nick Paton Walsh, on the story for us.

Thank you.

Now, he has become known as the voice of Homs over the last week as a military onslaught pounded the city. Danny, he uploaded daily reports to YouTube showing the world the brutality as it unfolded. And in the process, he risked his life.

Ian Lee tells us he has been forced to flee the city.



IAN LEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Homs, last year. A protester lies gravely wounded. Danny Abdul Dayem helps drag him to safety.

DANNY ABDUL DAYEM, SYRIAN ACTIVIST: You get used to dragging the dead bodies or dragging injured people to hospitals every day. Every day.

LEE: Later, Danny was also shot. He and his family fled Homs and took refuge in London. But for Danny, the cause mattered much more than his life.

ABDUL DAYEM: I can't wait to get back.

LEE: Despite the huge risk, he did go back. And in the last few weeks, Danny Abdul Dayem became the voice of Homs, detailing one regime's atrocities after another.

ABDUL DAYEM: They've been hitting us from, like, 8:00 a.m. with mortar bombs and tank shells. And I just told everyone the tank shell or mortar bomb, it either blows in the air or comes in one of the buildings.

Look at the bodies! Look at the bodies! These are rockets! They've been firing rockets at us for two hours now.

We've got more than 30 (ph) people dead, multiple injuries. Look! All dead bodies all over the place.

We're not animals. We're human beings. We're asking for help.

LEE: But as Syrian tanks closed in on his neighborhood, Danny had to get out. His family in Cairo waits anxiously for news and watches the carnage in their hometown.

HELEN ABDUL DAYEM, DANNY'S MOTHER: How can the world know the cries of these members? I can't watch it. Every day I see these women crying and kissing their dead children.

The biggest fear is that one day, I'm going to end up with a video, and he's on the table or on the floor.

LEE: Danny's family has become almost a PR agency for the uprising, helping get journalists into Syria and information out. But this day, they have just one focus -- their son.

H. ABDUL DAYEM: I know you're tired. We're all tired. Just get through this day. Come on. Akram, calm down.

AKRAM ABDUL DAYEM, DANNY'S FATHER: I'm going in with him. I'm taking a machine gun and I'm going in.

H. ABDUL DAYEM: No you're not. Calm down.

A. ABDUL DAYEM: I am. I've had enough. I can't live like this.

H. ABDUL DAYEM: Calm down.

LEE: There's no news from Danny, and rumors swirl.

H. ABDUL DAYEM: He's on Lebanese soil, and a group of Lebanese Hezbollah have got them.

LEE: Hezbollah is a strong ally of al-Assad.

A. ABDUL DAYEM: He thinks Lebanon is safe. It isn't.

H. ABDUL DAYEM: It isn't safe there. I know.

A. ABDUL DAYEM: He keeps saying it's safe.

H. ABDUL DAYEM: He stopped (ph) by Lebanon.

A. ABDUL DAYEM: It's no good. They'll hand him over.

LEE: Danny's younger siblings, Jenna (ph) and Sammy (ph), wait anxiously to hear the fate of their 23-year-old brother. Then a message.

H. ABDUL DAYEM: OK. So Will (ph) says, "We're not expecting Danny to arrive in Lebanon until late tonight."

A. ABDUL DAYEM: OK. Tell him I'll arrive 10:00.

H. ABDUL DAYEM: He says this -- he says, "I'll (INAUDIBLE) with him now. I'm checking with him."

Calm down.

A. ABDUL DAYEM: OK. OK. OK. I'm calm.

H. ABDUL DAYEM: You're not calm. Calm down.

LEE: The hours tick by, and then another phone call.

H. ABDUL DAYEM: This is the human rights in Lebanon.


He's in Lebanon? He's in Lebanon? He's in Beirut?



LEE: Danny has made it safely into Lebanon, and moments later the phone rings again.


LEE: A bad connection ends their call, but now it's Helen's turn.

H. ABDUL DAYEM: Danny? Hi. Are you all right? It's good to hear your voice. We were so worried about you, Danny.

I know. I know. We heard stories this morning and got worried.

He says he doesn't care. They said he was dead four times already, so it's another story.

A. ABDUL DAYEM: But, we care.

H. ABDUL DAYEM: But we care. Yes, that's what your dad said. We get worried when we hear these things. As long as you're safe, it's all OK. It's all OK, as long as you're safe.

LEE: A happy ending. The voice of Homs is safe, but the thousands still there still suffer under the withering attacks of the regime.

For CNN, Ian Lee, Cairo.


STOUT: Now, some late developments coming in to CNN now. Explosives have been found attached to the cars of Israeli Embassy staff in both New Delhi, India, and the Georgian capital, Tbilisi.

Footage from CNN's sister station, CNN IBN, showed pictures of a burnt-out Israeli Embassy car in New Delhi. They've also reported that a diplomat had been wounded.

We'll bring you more on this story as we get it right here on CNN.

Coming up next here on NEWS STREAM, there is a lot of speculation about what caused the death of pop icon Whitney Houston. We'll get the facts when we go live to the coroner's office in Los Angeles.

In Vietnam, a tragic story of child poverty and human trafficking. CNN's "Freedom Project" investigates.

And he is the son of a revolutionary hero and an architect of China's economic reforms. We'll look at the career of Xi Jinping, China's president in waiting.


STOUT: Leading (ph) lights of the music world lit up the red carpet for last night's Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, but it was the death of singing legend Whitney Houston that took center stage as stars mourned her passing and celebrated her life.


LL COOL J, GRAMMY AWARDS HOST: We thank you for sharing our sister Whitney with us. Today, our thoughts are with her mother, her daughter, and all of her loved ones. And although she has gone too soon, we remain truly blessed to have been touched by her beautiful spirit and to have her lasting legacy of music to cherish and share forever. Amen.


STOUT: Show host LL Cool J led the tribute.

The 48-year-old singer was found dead in her hotel room on Saturday. She had been planning to attend a pre-Grammy function that same night.


STOUT: Singer Jennifer Hudson took the stage toward the end of the show, rounding off the ceremony with a rendition of Houston's "I Will Always Love You."

The Los Angeles Coroner's Office shows Houston's body shows no signs of trauma and there is no suspicion of foul play.

Let's get the latest now from Los Angeles. David Mattingly joins us now live.

And David, there is no suspicion of foul play, but are we any closer to knowing what caused the sudden death of Whitney Houston?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the coroners here say they were able to conduct the autopsy in a matter of hours. They get a lot of answers for that, but they're just deferring, coming out with an official cause of death until they get all those toxicology reports back, and that's going to take weeks. But what they did tell us was a lot.

They told us there was no foul play involved, so we know this isn't a murder case. They told us that there were no signs of physical trauma on the body, which tells us she was not injured, she possibly did not have a fall that contributed to her death. But we do know that her body was discovered in the bathtub of her hotel room in Los Angeles, and that when paramedics arrived, they tried to revive her with CPR and were not successful.

So, at this point, we're waiting for those toxicology reports to come back for the final determination that will tell us if there are any sort of substances in her body -- alcohol, prescription drugs, illegal drugs, anything that might have contributed to her death. Those big questions now still weeks away.

STOUT: That's right. So we have more details, but still questions that need to be answered.

Now, grief over the singer's death was very evident at the Grammy Awards, but what kind of reaction have you encountered while covering the story?

MATTINGLY: The reaction that we've seen from her fans has been almost the same straight across the board. Everyone knew that she had her problems and that she had addiction problems.

She's been off the charts for years, but people were still following what was happening to her, pulling for her to get back on track and get back into performing. And they knew that she was about to come out with a new movie, she was working on getting back on to the stage and touring and singing again to the audiences. That's why her sudden death now has caught so many people by surprise and it has been such a shock.

They were waiting to see a Whitney Houston comeback, not something like this.

STOUT: David Mattingly, joining us live from Los Angeles.

Thank you.

Whitney Houston's voice, it was exceptional, just rocketing her to instant stardom and success. But she also had great vocal genes, born to a family that became American show biz royalty and nurtured by the best in the business.

Now, her mother, Cissy Houston, was a Grammy Award-winning gospel singer, and her cousin was the hugely successful artist Dionne Warwick. And here you can see both of them. This is when they were singing together last year.

And Houston's godmother is the original queen of soul, Aretha Franklin.

Now, coming up next here on NEWS STREAM, jubilation in Zambia. The nation celebrates its unexpected victory in the Africa Cup of Nations.


STOUT: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong.

You're watching NEWS STREAM, and these are your world headlines.

Now, the EU has condemned violence in Greece, describing it as unacceptable. Police used tear gas against demonstrators as violence erupted in Athens over new austerity measures.

On Monday morning, Greek lawmakers voted through the latest round of budget cuts, a move Germany said it welcomed.

As the violence continues in Syria, diplomats at the UN are expected to discuss a new draft resolution that would strongly condemn the government's crackdown on protesters. And the Arab League has called for a joint UN peacekeeping force in Syria. Russia says it is studying the idea, but insists a cease-fire must be established first.

In Pakistan, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has appeared before the supreme court in Islamabad. He's pleaded not guilty to a charge of contempt of court. Charges stem from the prime minister's refusal to revive old corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari. Mr. Gilani now faces a trial that could put his political future at risk.

1.2 million children are trafficked for sex each year. Now this is a horrifying statistic. A small school in Vietnam is working to keep even one more child from becoming a victim. The Catalyst Foundation says hundreds of families live in a garbage dump and their children can become easy prey for traffickers.

Now the trash heap has been their home for generations, ever since they fled the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. Now it sits in southern Vietnam, very close to the border. The nearest town is Rach Gia, 25 kilometers to the northwest. You'll find Kien Giang, it's the garbage dump there. And you can just look at how big it is.

And Natalie Allen, she went there on a humanitarian trip. And what she found there was heartbreaking, but the story is not without hope.


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: From the beauty of Halong Bay in the north to the lush countryside in the central highlands, Vietnam is a country of contrast, a picture of rural life seemingly untouched by time. For generations of families toil in the rice fields. Vietnam also has one of the world's fastest growing economies and a skyline to match.

But in this country of 90 million, this is progress most here will never see.

It was early morning when I touched down deep in the Mekong Delta on the southwest tip of Vietnam. I came here on a humanitarian trip. All of us volunteers from several different countries. All I knew was we were going to build a playground for poor children. But I wasn't prepared for how poor.

They live on a garbage dump, hundreds of Khmers, Cambodian refugees who spend their days picking through trash for food and for pennies.

It's afternoon here and that means the real work is about to begin. There's a 4:00 truck that comes in. They'll work that for about two hours, sorting through. And then at 11:00, apparently, the best truck comes in with the most trash that they could recycle. And many of these families, children as well, will work through the night.

I watched as this young mother sorted, pressed, stomped, and carried away an afternoon haul. Her load will bring her family less than 35 cents.

These people are so desperate I'm still haunted by what happened just minutes after we arrived. A father offered to sell us his baby, this little boy.

There's no shortage of traffickers looking to seize on that desperation. Every day these children are at risk of being taken away, bought and sold.

CAROLINE NGUYEN TICARRO-PARKER, CO-FOUNDER CATALYST FOUNDATION: When we started we knew of a house that was at the entrance of the dump and we knew that girls were being taken in there by traffickers and raped. If they screamed, then they were let go. If they weren't screamed then they were taken. And the girls were as young as four.

ALLEN: Caroline Nguyen Ticarro-Parker runs the Catalyst Foundation, a non-profit aid group that brought us here. She told me about the lure of the traffickers, often too strong for these incredibly vulnerable people, the poorest of the poor. How could they not believe that anything would be better than this?

TICARRO-PARKER: A trafficker looks like your mom, doesn't look like a bad guy. A trafficker came to the community asked the family member, asked the parents does she have a daughter? We have $150 dollars. And she's going to work for us. And she may be back in a couple of years. Are you interested? And there were parents that said yes.

ALLEN: Many of those children will never be seen again.

Caroline believes education is the one thing that can save these kids, that's why she opened Catalyst, the first school for the children at the dump.

TICARRO-PARKER: The main reason Catalyst exists is to prevent trafficking. And we knew that girls were being taken from the garbage dump. And we thought, if you can escape from wherever you're being taken to come home and read the signs that was one step.

ALLEN: And Caroline tells me it's just as important to educate the parents.

TICARRO-PARKER: When we started it was 99 percent illiteracy. None of the parents knew how to read and write. The children had never been to school. And we're up to 60 percent literacy rate. The children were understanding that they could be the generation that doesn't work in the dump.

ALLEN: I was overwhelmed by these children, by their incredible resilience amid such bleak surroundings. Like 14-year-old Yu.

TICARRO-PARKER: When she was nine she started working full-time. 12, she went to school for the first time at our school.

ALLEN: Is it hard for her to go to school and work here too?

TICARR-PARKER: We're very realistic about that. We're not going to eliminate trafficking. We're not going to change this whole culture of girls feeling unworthy of themselves, but we're going to change this group of girls, we're going to change 200 girls. It's going to happen one girl at a time.


ALLEN: Catalyst is one small aid group working to save those children. This is what it's up against, according to the U.S. State Department 2011 trafficking in person's report Vietnam is largely a source country. So children are often taken to so-called destination countries, for the most part they're sent to brothels in Cambodia, Laos, and China.

The report says the government of Vietnam does not fully comply with the minimum State Department standards for the elimination of trafficking, but it also notes that Hanoi is making significant efforts to do so. During the year, the government passed new anti-trafficking legislation and a new five year national action plan on trafficking, Kristie.

LU STOUT: Now we saw just then desperate scenes that you picked up on your camera there in Vietnam -- the poverty, the risk of abduction and abuse, and it's just really good to hear that there are groups out there like Catalyst. And Natalie you mentioned that your group, you were there in Vietnam originally to build a playground for the children there. So what happened to that project?

ALLEN: Yeah, certain Kristie. Catalyst Foundation knows anything it can do to strengthen the community will help keep the girls safe. So a safe, clean place to play on school grounds was one of their goals. And you'll see that playground in our final report. And the kids helped us build it too, so you'll see it.

But first I want to share more of the dangers these children face. We'll tell the story of one girl who was taught always run if bad men chase you. She did, but it did not end well. We'll have her story in our report tomorrow.

LU STOUT: All right, Natalie Allen reporting. We'll see you again right here tomorrow on NEWS STREAM. Thank you.

Now Israel's prime minister says Iran stand behind the bombers who attached explosive devices to Israeli embassy cars in India and Georgia. Now the device in the Georgian capital Tbilisi was defused, but one in New Delhi detonated, wounding two people.

Let's get more on this now. CNN's Sara Sidner joins us now from New Delhi. And Sara, you went to the blast site there in New Delhi, what did you see?

SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What we saw was a van that was charred on all sides. The windows had been blown out. There were definitely parts of the vehicle underneath it that had come off of the vehicle. So certainly there was definitely a fire. And at first that's what officials thought they were dealing with was just a fire.

But then we were able to speak with a witness from the scene who said that he definitely heard a loud explosion. He came running and saw the car on fire after hearing the loud boom noise. So he first said that he noticed the car because he owned a gas station just down the street and recognized that the car was from the Israeli embassy, recognized the people inside. He said that there was a woman and a man.

Now we do now know from the Ministry of External Affairs that that woman was definitely one of the members of the Israeli embassy here and the man was an Indian national, the driver of the car. Both of them were injured but are expected to be OK.

This is coming at an interesting time, because as you just mentioned our Kevin Flower in the Jerusalem bureau, our bureau chief there, had gotten word from the Israeli officials there that there was indeed a detonation by a device on another vehicle in Tbilisi that was taken care of where nobody was hurt. Now you're seeing this happen here in India. This happened about 500 meters or so from the Israeli embassy as well.

We're also told that Israeli personnel based overseas have been recently told to be aware and be on alert, because this is the day after the fourth anniversary of the death of Hezbollah leader -- one of the Hezbollah leaders, Mughniyeh , who Hezbollah believes was killed by the Israeli spy agency Mossad. And they have decided to seek revenge for that.

And so there has been no link, so to speak, by officials between these two things: the fourth anniversary of the death of the Hezbollah leader and these devices that have been found on cars and one here in Delhi that actually exploded. But they are looking into it. At this point, the Israeli embassy here is saying that they are not talking about the fact that this could be terrorism. They're just investigating. Same thing with the police here in New Delhi.

LU STOUT: All right. Sara Sidner on the story. Thank you very much indeed for that.

And coming up next here on NEWS STREAM, this man, Xi Jinping, will most likely be China's next president. But who is he? And how did he rise so far? We'll look at Xi's career after the break.


LU STOUT: Now China's relationship with the U.S. is under scrutiny as the Chinese vice president Xi Jinping prepares to meet President Obama in Washington.

But how much do we know about the man who is expected to be China's next leader? Stan Grant reports from the city where he made his name.




GRANT: He's a friend of yours. Well, it's good to have powerful friends.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

GRANT: Oh, to have friends like these.

Crystal Wang (ph) is connected with a capital C.

Wen Jiabao?


GRANT: And Hu Jintao.

But only one-on-one photos with China's president Hu Jintao, but the presumptive president in waiting Xi Jinping. With a little help from her friends, Wang (ph) has taken a tech software business started with a big dream and one desk 20 years ago and turned it into a worldwide mini-empire worth hundreds of millions of dollars, creating valuable jobs for young Chinese.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is very kind, yeah.

(through translator): The vice president is a very kind person. I'm a business woman and he is a high ranking official. I should have failed the status gap between us, but I never did. He's such a good listener, paying attention to our ideas and nurturing young entrepreneurs like us.

He ask us our government needs to do this.

GRANT: She championed high tech, green industries, and food safety. Wang's (ph) Newland Technology (ph) seized its opportunities. Wang (ph) got lucky. Her rise mirrored the rise of this young, bright politician soon to be governor of coastal Fujian provice in southern China.

Son of a Mao era revolutionary hero and an architect of China's economic reform, Xi is one of the so-called princelings, the men are born of Chinese Communism.

Xi married a famous Chinese folk singer. He kept his head down and worked the system. Old China hands say he'd been almost invisible and unknowable.

JAMES MCGREGOR, CHINA ANALYST: We don't much about him. We don't know what he really thinks.

GRANT: Xia Linling (ph) certainly knows who Xi is. And the 32-year- old unemployed welder has a message for the man who would be president.

"I want a job," he says. "Our local economy is just bad. I find even a bowl of noodles too expensive here."

These people are expecting a lot from Xi Jinping. They want him to make a real difference in their lives. This is Fujian, the heartland. And it clearly shows the growing gap between rich and poor in China. This is the China Xi Jinping is going to inherit.

In this one small town, China's challenges are laid bare -- crowded streets, pollution, another generation being raised in poverty, left behind by China's economic growth.

Xi has left a mark here. As governor, he provided housing for many poor fishing families. But too many others remain crowded in ramshackle slums. This is not what the U.S. politicians see when they raise the China threat -- a rich, rising, super rival accused of manipulating trade and stealing American jobs and a rising military threat.

But analysts say these are the people, the poor and increasingly angry, that Xi Jinping cannot ignore when he sits down with Barack Obama.

MCGREGOR: No, he can't. But one thing you'll see is he's going to have to be tough. I think he's going to have to be tough with a smile on his face. He's going to have to appear to be a very friendly man, but he has to be tough, because he's still talking to an audience back here.

GRANT: An audience increasingly divided along a widening economic fault line. The economy is slowing, and political and social unrest growing. While China and the U.S. square off, Chinese are eying each other. On one side Crystal Wang (ph) and China's elites, on the other Xia Ying Ling (ph) and the hundreds of millions more like him. In the eyes of many in China, the rich just get rich, the poor get the pitcher.

Stan Grant, CNN, Fujian Province, China.


LU STOUT: Now the Chinese vice president's visit is being covered widely in the U.S. media, shining a spotlight on the man who could lead the world's second largest economy.

The Los Angeles Times has profiled Xi Jinping's life, including the seven years he spent living in a cave as a teenager when he did hard labor during China's cultural revolution.

Now he also answered questions from the Washington Post where he emphasized the importance of closer ties with the U.S., even said he watches the NBA on TV when he has time.

Well, Xi Jinping, he might have a new reason to watch more of the NBA, as relatively unknown Chinese-American player becomes a global phenomenon. That story next here on CNN.


LU STOUT: Welcome back.

Now the big cold continues to freeze Europe. Let's get details now with Mari Ramos. She joins us from the world weather center -- Mari.

MARI RAMOS, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: Kristie, I hate starting this way, but I have to tell you guys some areas across Europe have some of the coldest temperatures they've had in this entire cold snap. Let's go ahead and take a look at some of those dangerously low temperatures this morning.

Moscow had its coldest temperatures so far this year, minus 32. Last time that they got to minus 30 or around this range was back in 2005. So we're talking about significantly cold weather. So whatever they had before, just think about, we're still dealing with extremely cold temperatures.

Kiev, again, minus 24 degrees. The lowest they've been is actually minus 27. But you get the picture.

And in Munich, minus 23. That's the coldest they've been so far through this entire cold snap. That's very significant.

And minus 20 in Warsaw.

You can see the averages right over here. And the huge difference between these two sets of temperatures. So you can see how widespread this is.

Now let's go ahead and take a look at some of the pictures coming to a recap of what's been going on across Europe. This is in Montenegro. Here they've had the heaviest snowfall in the last 50 years. You want to see some heavy snowfall? Take a look at these pictures from Romania. The rescues here have been ongoing.

Let's go ahead and roll the video that we have from that region. The rescues here have been ongoing with heavy wind, heavy snowfall, and extremely cold temperatures that have been affecting this regions. Here you see people trapped in their cars. They're using tractors to pull out the vehicle. This is one of the problems we have seen over and over again.

And when you are dealing with strong winds like this, zero visibility, not only does it becomes dangerous, it can become deadly as well.

And unfortunately we have another round of some very heavy snowfall across these areas over the next 24 to 48 hours and then we begin to see a little bit of a break.

As you -- wow, amazing there.

Come back over to the weather map over here. These are picture from Tunisia, North Africa, where the cold has really taken its toll here as well. Some villagers are trapped and they have -- you know, they're delivering food into some of those areas to try to feed those people that may need extra help.

Now this is what the weather map is going to be doing. We have a push of cold air coming in here across the north, another push that's coming in here across the east, but most of the coldest air will continue to push toward the east as we head through the next couple of days.

Now, remember I was showing you all that purple on the map before, most of that has pushed back over toward Russia, but we're still dealing with below average temperatures across this entire region. And we're going to see a few more greens popping up, that's actually a sign of temperatures moderating and definitely good news -- a sign of things to come.

Let's go ahead and move on. I want to talk a little bit about the tropics. We have this massive tropical cyclone. Kristie, it's over 700 kilometers wide. The eye alone is over 50 kilometers wide. It is called tropical cyclone Giovanna and it's over here just off the coast of Africa. There is Madagascar right over here.

Look at these winds, 230 kilometers per hour. May actually strengthen a little bit before it actually makes landfall.

The winds are gusting to nearly 280 kilometers per hour. It is a huge storm. It is expected to pass across this northern portion of Madagascar as we head through the next 25 hours. So overnight tonight, it's going to be a critical time for people here with, of course, the strong wind, the rain and everything else tropical cyclones do.

Back to you.

LU STOUT: Wow, a massive storm. And as you said, it's only going to get bigger. Thank you very much for keeping tabs on that for us. Mari Ramos there.

Now from anonymity to internet sensation is just one week. Sport's newest hero is Jeremy Lin, a 23-year-old Asian-American NBA star. Now Lin has actually been in the NBA for over a year, but after the New York Knicks made him a starting player just over a week ago, he's made a huge impact.

Now just take a look at this chart right here, Lin has scored more points than any other player has in their first four starts since 1976. That puts him ahead of legendary names like Allen Iverson, Shaquille O'Neal or even Michael Jordan.

Now as Richard Roth reports, it's no surprise he's become a fan sensation.


RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jeremy Lin is now a real-life urban legend. From last man on the New York Knicks bench to overnight star.

PABLO TORRE, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED: What we're seeing in New York that I have never seen and we haven't seen for generations really.

ROTH: It was Saturday night Lin fever in frigid Minneapolis as Lin helped the traveling Knicks to their fifth straight win. Ratings for the Knicks television on MSG network have soared.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My friends have suddenly become very interested in basketball, suddenly.

ROTH: Blondies Sports Bar seemed a little extra crowded.

Why are you hear tonight?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Obviously to check out the Linsanity.

ROTH: Linsanity?


ROTH: The first Chinese-American NBA player, Lin is drawing in newcomers to the sport.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My fiancee, perfect example. She'll be here later tonight. She saw a couple of plays last night, just thinks that he's amazing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I watched my first NBA game in years just yesterday. So -- and I think he's just really revitalized the entire -- not only the Knicks, but the entire league.

ROTH: The whole country seem to be still buzzing about Friday night when Lin scored 38 points and drove the Knicks to a victory over the stories Los Angeles Lakers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, it's amazing. How could you not be excited? I mean, look at the Knicks. Have you followed them for the last 10 years, right? And then this guy shows up and he knows how to play the game. You've got to be excited.

ROTH: After the loss, Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant conceded Lin's work ethic is a good example for young kids.

Who is your favorite player?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jeremy Lin. Jeremy Lin.

ROTH: What do you like about him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That he's a beast.

ROTH: That means, very tough for you non-sports fans who are just catching up on Lin's exploits which have occurred in just one week.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And let's hope it continues. But, you know, we can't put him in the hall of fame yet.

ROTH: Lin's numbers dropped in the second half Saturday. And he was glad the team would be off for two days.

JEREMY LIN, NEW YORK KNICKS BASKETBALL PLAYER: I don't know, I just feel like I'm still living in a dream. I still feel like I'm in a dream right now.

ROTH: He's not the only one now dreaming.

What do you like best about Lin?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's tall and dreamy.

ROTH: Richard Roth, CNN, New York.


LU STOUT: Now Lin isn't the first Asian-American to play the NBA. He's not even the first to play for the Knicks. Now partners at Sports Illustrated, they have the story of Wataru Misaka who played for the Knicks in 1947. Well, the Japanese American Misaka didn't have anything like Lin's success. He played just three games and scored a total of 7 points.

Now, you may have noticed that I've stayed away from saying Linsanity, but Lin's last name makes him an easy target for puns. And that's where this web site comes in., it generates Jeremy Lin puns.

So what do you get when you combine Lin and fantastic? Lintastic.

Perfect site if you're looking for a bit of Linspiration.